Create a High Hedge

09/15/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Landscaping, Plant Care, Shrubs

Fall is definitely in the air. Rains with cooler nights have produced the ideal crop of Autumn Joy Sedum. This knee-high plant is simply the perfect perennial. Rich rosy-pink flowers that adorn sturdy succulent stems age to copper red providing season long autumn colors. This improved variety sizzles from late summer through fall and then does it again each year. A true mountain hardy perennial, it is as comfortable in rock gardens as when showing off in containers and raised beds. It is so easy to grow that beginning gardeners are encouraged to start with sedums, especially this big bold Autumn variety.

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The fall planting season is upon us with perfect weather to start a new hedge. This week’s article is dedicated to plants that become fuller when trimmed, grow nice and full as single specimens, but can also be planted close together to form a thick head-high hedge. Nothing is worse than planting a hedge with two of the middle plants dying out mid-year because of transplant shock.

By planting now that risk is averted, and the success rate increases dramatically. It is one of the many benefits from fall planting. A hedge planted now will be a season ahead of one planted in spring. That’s because roots form though winter allowing the hedge to ignite with new growth in spring. Get it started now and your established hedge will grow more next year. This is especially important for larger privacy hedges.

Red Tipped Photinia is the most common plant used for a tall hedge. Its new spring growth emerges red then matures to a waxy green leaf. If left to itself very long it can grow too large for most properties. More maintenance is required to control this aggressive 12-foot tall evergreen, which can require a ladder to prune once it becomes a hedge
Glossy Privet is often a better choice than the Red Tipped Photinia. Growing to only head high the deep green leaves form a thick hedge. The waxy leaves hold moisture within each plant’s structure creating a low water, low maintenance hedge.

Gilt Edge Silverberry is a new hedge plant with a native twist that rivals Manzanita. Bright gold edges highlight every blue leaf for a truly striking hedge plant. When planted at four-foot intervals the result is a bright, head-high privacy screen so thick that no one would try to penetrate it. Investment property owners use this plant because it classes up a property’s value and is hardy enough to defy a landscape’s deadliest tenant.

Sea Green Juniper is a hardy plant our grandfathers used for hedges. Of course, northern Arizona is famous for its juniper forest so a juniper hedge is right in keeping with its native surroundings. The signature sea green foliage grows quickly to head high needing little help and even less water. It forms a very thick hedge that requires infrequent hedge trimming to keep it perfectly manicured.

Victory Pyracantha is another old-fashioned plant perfectly suited for an eight-foot high hedge. White flowers in spring become orange berries the birds dearly love. Thick glossy green leaves are small and surprisingly hard on this the fastest growing of the tall hedge plants. This plant has all the seasons covered for an interesting landscape. Long thorns prevent a trespasser’s escape through this hedge and are equally effective at keeping out unwanted visitors.

Golden Euonymous is the most popular of the hedge plants and is as tough as they come. Bright gold foliage delivers a touch of class that is festive and fun the year ‘round. An ideal hedge, it can be sheared or left to grow into a natural form. It’s dense enough to be effective as a barrier to prying eyes and to muffle offensive sounds. Look to the Silver King Euonymus for the same design elements but in a silver cream color that is equally striking. Feel free to mix and match the two for more interesting, less monotonous long hedges.
Oregon Grape Holly has several varieties that grow wild in the mountains of Arizona. This one grows quickly to five feet with minimal maintenance. Once up to size this hedge could be free from all care except very infrequent watering during the heat of summer. Grape-like berries that are favorites to birds follow the gold flowers that cover this plant in early spring. The leaves resemble English holly, but are well adapted to our wind and bright sun. These plants make an excellent hedge along driveways and property lines.
Spacing is critical for a fast filling hedge. Use the plant’s ultimate height as the spacing recommendation for a thick hedge. However, if the plant tag says your plant will grow 5-7 feet tall use the smaller of the two numbers. Our arid Arizona climate seems to dwarf plants by forcing them to grow on the small size of their potentials.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.